30 Years of Hugs and Kisses

Virginia Repertory Theatre and Prevent Child Abuse Virginia Celebrate

30 Years of Hugs and Kisses
Virginia’s Principal Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Program

HUGS FALL 2013Richmond, VA – Virginia Repertory Theatre announces the 30th anniversary celebration of the nationally acclaimed child sexual abuse prevention program Hugs and Kisses. The free anniversary performance will take place Wednesday, October 16 at 7:00 p.m. at the Sara Belle and Neil November Theatre, 114 West Broad Street. This award- winning landmark musical play sensitively tells the story of a little girl who has been sexually abused. During the course of the play, the girl and her friends learn valuable life lessons that enable her to talk to a trusted adult who can bring help. Juan Conde from Channel 8 News will EMCEE the event. A question and answer session and reception will follow immediately after the program.

Hugs and Kisses is a unique partnership between Prevent Child Abuse Virginia (PCAV), the Virginia Department of Social Services and Virginia Rep. Now in its 30th year of touring, Hugs and Kisses introduces the concepts of good touch, bad touch and secret touch to elementary school students in a sensitive and an age appropriate manner through an enjoyable musical play. Both Johanna Schuchert, Executive Director of PCAV, and Ann Childress, CPS Prevention Supervisor from Social Services, agree that collaboration has been the key to keeping this program going since 1983. “All three organizations and other valuable partners have worked together at the state level. Schools, local social services and other community groups such as women’s clubs have supported the effort locally. We are all appreciative of the difference this program has made for children in Virginia.”

The project began with a 1981 conversation between Bruce Miller, then Artistic Director of Theatre IV, and Ann Childress from the Virginia Department of Social Services. Childress persuaded Miller that an educational program about child sexual abuse was needed for school age children. After 18 months of research, Miller along with playwright Terry Bliss and composer, Richard Giersch, had created the child abuse prevention play. Miller remembers that in the early years, Hugs and Kisses was not an easy sell. “In 1983, no school in Virginia would even accept a free performance so we provided seven showcase performances across the state. During that time period, a major case of child abuse broke at a childcare facility in California and child sexual abuse was featured on the cover of Time and Newsweek. Within days, the show was fully booked and has been ever since.”

Hugs and Kisses has been shown in every school district in Virginia and has been seen by approximately 1.5 million children. An independent evaluation is conducted annually. The evaluation consistently supports that children learn the prevention message across all elementary school grade levels. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many children have sought and received the help they need to end existing sexual victimization as a result of Hugs and Kisses and related dialogue.

Funding from the Virginia Department of Social Services, Virginia Commission for the Arts, and foundations and corporations allows Virginia Rep to take Hugs and Kisses to over 150 schools annually for a subsidized price of $150 – $350. In many cases, the play is performed at no cost to the school.

Hugs and Kisses has been recognized nationally as an important prevention tool. The United States Department of Health and Human Services awarded Bruce Miller the Commissioner’s Award to honor his “outstanding contribution to the field of child abuse and neglect.” The program itself has received the Governor’s Award for service to the Commonwealth and the Award for Excellence in Prevention from the Virginia Council in Coordinating Prevention. In addition, Hugs and Kisses was performed before the U. S. Senate Sub-Committee on the Sexual Victimization of Children and was the keynote address at the national conference of the National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse.

For more information about the event or the Hugs and Kisses contact Ronnie Brown at rbrown@va-rep.org or 783-1688 ext 1130.

About Virginia Repertory Theatre

Virginia Repertory Theatre, located in Richmond, VA, combines the talents and strengths of two nonprofit companies that shared facilities, resources, and management teams for over a decade. Now the heritages of Barksdale Theatre (founded in 1953) and Theatre IV (founded in 1975) live on in their new form, as Central Virginia’s leading professional theater company. Virginia Rep presents national caliber productions of the great dramas, comedies, and musicals as well as classics, contemporary works, and world premieres, always seeking to demonstrate the unique power of theater to engage, enthrall, educate, and inspire. Productions are staged at four distinct venues: the Sara Belle and Neil November Theatre and Theatre Gym at the downtown Virginia Rep Center, Virginia Rep’s Children’s Theatre of Virginia located at Willow Lawn, and at Hanover Tavern, home to Virginia Rep’s Barksdale Season.

Virginia Rep theatre logo 2012